Jansamvad Yatra in Bihar

(Towards the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, CPI(ML) conducted a Jansamvad Yatra from 10-25 January, interacting with people to seek out their concerns and their agenda. A report.)

CPI (ML)’s Jansamvad Yatra to decide important issues for the 2014 polls was started from Ekwari (Ara) in Bihar on 10 January. Ekwari and Bhojpur are the land of Jagdish Master, Rameshwar Ahir and Ramnaresh Ram who dedicated their lives to people’s struggles. In the 1967 election, Jagdish Master had wished to field Ramnaresh Ram for MLA from here so that the people from the poor, working class and all democratic sections could elect an honest and pro-people representative, but he was thwarted by a mortal attack on his life by the forces of social injustice and repression. Jagdish Master and Rameshwar Ahir were martyred in the cause of the struggle for a truly democratic society and a system which ensured development for all. Ramnaresh Ram carried forward this struggle throughout his life, and 28 years later, when he was elected as the MLA of the same constituency, his integrity, sacrifice, and dedication to the people’s interests made him an inspiration for revolutionary people’s representatives for time to come.

The Jansamvad Yatra also took off in 18 Lok Sabha constituencies including Patliputra, Ara, Jehanabad, Siwan, Karakat, and Darbhanga, with senior as well as young leaders of the Party forming more than 100 teams. Each Lok Sabha constituency has teams on 2 levels, one at the LS level and the others at the Vidhan Sabha level, to find out which issues the people consider important for the 2014 elections. Many such issues have emerged, including the need to reverse corrupt and anti-people policies, to make the elections a forum of struggle for pro-people policies, to fight communalism and to strengthen people’s unity.

During the Yatra, widespread resentment was evident against the Central and State governments as well as sitting local MPs. People in several villages raised the issues of electricity, education, health, irrigation, and other basic questions. Even today most villages are bereft of electricity in spite of Nitish Kumar’s tall promises. Government schools and health centres are in a pathetic condition, with education and health becoming dependent on private institutions. Honorarium-based teachers have not been paid for several months. Irrigation facilities have completely broken down. People also want answers to questions regarding roads, problems of alcoholism, sanitation, drainage and roads, Indira Awas, homestead land, ration-kerosene, and rising prices. In several places, the people revealed that during the past 5 years their MP had not bothered to come in their midst even once and never enquired about their problems.

In Ara LS constituency, apart from Ekwari, the Yatra was started at Sahar and Kolodehri on 10 January, at Khutha, Kapurdihra, Piro (Tarari) on 11 January, and at Baraon, Agiaon, Keswan, Kakila, Ayar, Utardaha (Jagdishpur) on 12 January. RYA President Raju Yadav, Party District Committee member Com. Qayamuddin, AISA leader Sabir Kumar, AIPWA leader Indu Devi, District Secretary Jawahar Lal Singh, AIALA District Secretary Kamta Prasad Singh, kisan leader Krishna Prasad Gupta, Block Secretary Rameshji, Block Committee member Ramdutt Ram, and Rajbalam Yadav interacted with the people. Earlier, Politburo member Com. Swadesh Bhattacharya flagged off the Jansamvad Yatra from the Party District Headquarters. Senior CPI (ML) leader Krishnadev Yadav also joined the Yatra.

At Ekwari, villagers Shri Bhagwan Paswan, Nandan Sharma, Jagdhari Ram, Ashok, Govind Ram, and Chinta Devi alleged gross negligence on the part of the sitting MP regarding repair of Sone canal, irrigation, education, and electricity, and expressed expectations that their representative should ensure fulfilment of basic needs. At Sahar, Sultan, Shahzad and many others alleged mistakes in APL-BPL, and complained of non-working of solar plant, officials’ apathy in hearing complaints, and corruption in hospitals.

At Ara, a meeting of intellectuals was held, where the changing political situation and issues for the coming elections were discussed. The meeting was attended by CPI (ML) State secretary Kunal, Prof. Ramtavakya Singh, Vir Kunwar Singh HoD of University History Dept. Shyambehari Rai, former Registrar Prof. Brajesh Kumar, HoD of Prakrit Dept. (Jain College) Prof. DN Chowdhury, Anuj Rajak, Prof. Ashok Ram, Prof. Gajadhar Singh, Prof. Lal Babu Yadav (Psychology Dept.), Prof. KN Tiwari, Ravindra Nath Rai, Sunil Sahay (Bhojpuri Dept.) and others.

In the Jehanabad LS constituency, the Jansamvad Yatra started from Sonbarsa panchayat in Arwal district under the leadership of State standing Committee member Com. Mahanand, State Committee member Com. Ramadhar Singh, AIPWA leader Kunti Devi, Wasi Ahmad, and Ravindra Yadav. Around 250 people joined the yatra at Sonbarsa and 500 people at Khabeni (Arwal district), and spoke about their problems. The Yatra reached Block Ratni after passing through Kaler, Karpi, Kurtha and other Blocks. Teams also interacted with people in all 3 Vidhan Sabha constituencies of Jehanabad, where they found great resentment against the scams in the socio-economic census as well as against the widespread corruption in the mid-day meal schemes.

The central team in the Patliputra LS constituency was led by former MP Rameshwar Prasad, State Committe member Com. Rambali Yadav, Com. Umesh Singh, and Com. Shivpujan Yadav. This team arrived at Manher-Bihata after passing through and interacting with people at Khagol, Danapur and other places.

The central team at Siwan was led by former MLA Amarnath Yadav, State Committee member Com. Naeemuddin, and AIPWA leader Malti Devi. Teams also visited and spoke with people in the 5 Vidhan Sabha constituencies of Siwan. Anger against the sitting MP in Siwan was obvious. The people narrated a noteworthy incident in Pukhrera village of Pachrukhi Block. 46-47 kurmi families have been living for a long time on gairmajrua land. The pond in the centre of the village had been used by mutual agreement amongst these families. But the former village Chief, Mokhtar Singh, has now taken that land for himself through “bandobast”, leaving these poor kurmi families with nowhere to go. These families contacted the Jansamvad Yatra to say that the government never did anything to solve their problems and now they have been evicted from their land.

Former MLA and ABKMS General Secretary Com. Rajaram Singh led the Yatra in Karakat. In Karakat Lok Sabha constituency, Jansamvad Yatra was taken out in 3 Vidhan Sabha constituencies of Aurangabad district and 4 VS constituencies of Rohtas district. The farmers of Dehri put forward their problems of electricity for irrigation. A meeting has been called on 31 January to discuss this issue. The teams spoke directly with the people in villages where there is no organizational base.

Politburo member Com. Dhirendra Jha led the team in Darbhanga, which organized 3 programmes in Darbhanga town, attended by many teachers and intellectuals including Dr BNP Yadav, Prof. Hrishikesh Jha, Ram Babu Arya, Prof. Kalyan Bharti and others. The central team organized 62 meetings in Darbhanga in which outsider participation was around 30%, even reaching 50% in some places. Direct dialogue has been established with about 50,000 people here. Apart from the general issues, the particular issue of hounding of Muslim youth was raised. Darbhanga district has been placed under the Central MSDP scheme, but there is a huge scam going on in the resources supposed to be coming to Muslims through this scheme. These funds are being spent for other purposes instead of for the minorities. Also, there is rampant loot in the Fishermen’s Welfare Scheme. Till today, fishermen have not benefited from this scheme. Farmers are angry at the escalating fertilizer pricers. The Jansamvad Yatra teams visited several villages. The Musahar toli in Bagras said that till today no political leader had come to visit them or discuss their problems. The construction of a community Hall has been ongoing for the last 15 years and is not yet complete. Landlessness, Indira Awas, ration-kerosene are huge daily problems here. Programmes have also been organized in Jhanjharpur, Ujyarpur, Arariya and other places. At Valmikinagar, the team under the leadership of State Committee member Com. Virendra Gupta spoke to sugar cane farmers. The Party has already organized agitations in the district on the questions of sugar cane prices and displacement of villages due to the Valmikinagar Tiger Project, and the government had been forced to back down on the questions raised by the cane farmers. During the Jansamvad, the people asked for a similar agitation to be organized afresh.

At Nalanda, in Biharsharif LS constituency, the public interacted with the team under the leadership of CC member Com. Shashi Yadav and senior Party leader Com. Pawan Sharma. Housing for the poor, drinking water, toilets, construction of a community hall, proper distribution of ration-kerosene, emerged as some of the key public concerns. The teams are also visiting Gopalganj, Muzaffarpur, Gaya, Bhagalpur, Purnea, Kaimur, Rohtas, Buxar, Betiya and other districts.

The Party is planning strategies to launch movements to raise the issues raised by the people during the Jansamvad Yatra. February will be a month of movements and people’s rallies organized in different Lok Sabha constituencies.

Meanwhile, on 16 January the Party organized protests in front of Block Head Offices throughout Bihar on the issues of electricity, widespread false entries in the socio-economic census and the demand to conduct a fresh survey, and the demand for implementing food security. Apart from the capital Patna, protests were held at Block offices in Masaudhi, Vikram, Phulwari, Dulhinbazar, Bihata, Maner, Punpun, Paliganj, Dhanrua, and Sampatchak. On the question of electricity, the party and its various people’s organizations have organized hard-hitting struggles from Jehanabad to Siwan. Our demand is that the process of privatization of electricity should be totally ended and every village and every household should be guaranteed 24 hours electricity at affordable rates; false and unjustified bills should be taken back and the poor should be given 100 units of free electricity. 5 Memos were submitted to the Bihar government through the BDOs.

During the Yatra, Party leaders said that the practice of displacing the urban poor without alternative housing and livelihood should be stopped immediately. Widespread wrong and false entries are being reported throughout Bihar in the socio-economic census, leading to bitter anger in the people. There is a plot to show the poor as being rich and thus reduce the number of BPL families, resulting in very few families getting the benefit of food security. We demand a stop to these wrong entries and a fresh survey to be conducted. AISA and RYA have gherao-ed the CM on 22 January on the question of equal education and dignified employment. Thousands of students, youth, contractual workers, honorarium-based teachers, midday meal cooks, and hawkers joined this protest. The State unit of AIPWA has organized a State level convention on violence against women in Patna on 31 January.

Akrosh March by Students in Patna

AISA and RYA organized an ‘Akrosh March’ and gherao-ed the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to protest on the issues of non-fulfilment of promises, pro-corporate communal forces, dignified employment, unemployment allowance, effective youth policy, affordable quality education, and affordable electricity, on 22 January 2014.

RYA and AISA went back to the 30,000 youth who had earlier signed a petition demanding an effective Youth Policy and mobilized them along with those demanding electricity, as well as TET-STET passed candidates and they agitated for their demands under a joint banner.

The 22 January protest was a corollary to the ongoing Jansamwad Yatra in Bihar and anger was expressed by students and youth on education, employment, health, electricity and other issues.

TET-STET Passed Candidates Association demanded jobs for the successful candidates without delay, and permanent and dignified employment for youth. On the eve of 22 January the government agreed to set up a camp and hand out the due appointment letters. The agitation to demand a student-teacher ratio of 30:1 will continue.

The All India Railway Vendors and Hawkers Association said that through the efforts of RYA, the 40 year od practice of “commission” has been ended in Patna-Gaya rail sector and they have been freed from the vicious cycle of abuse and oppression by GRP and RPF. Further agitation will continue for legal status, id cards and security for vendors and hawkers.

The Rasoiya Parivar Kalyan Sangh and midday meal workers are demanding a minimum honorarium of Rs. 10,000, along with Class IV Government employee status and transparency in selection process. The All India Sports Players Association and judo and karate martial arts players have demanded a place in the youth policy and jobs as teachers in schools and colleges.

The RYA demanded 24 hour affordable electricity in every village household, repair of faulty transformers, poles and wires, and protested at electricity offices in Nalanda, Siwan, Jehanabad, Samastipur, Patna, Champaran, Darbhanga, Bhojpur, Gopalganj, Arwal and other places. They also demanded that false and incorrect electricity bills should be withdrawn.

A march was organized Gandhi Maidan in Patna to agitate for all the above demands, led by Amarjit Kushwaha, Raju Yadav, Naveen Kumar, Rinki, Ajit Kushwaha, Abhyuday, Kesar Nehal, Sudhir, Divya Gautam, Dhiraj, Markandeya Pathak, Anil Rai, Kunal, Jyoti and others. A 4 member delegation met the Bihar Home Secretary and submitted a 17 point petition of demands. Addressing the meeting, Party General Secretary Com. Dipankar Bhattacharya appealed to students and youth to put education, employment, electricity, health and other people’s issues on the election agenda and exhorted them to throw out worthless governments and elect pro=people governments. He said that due to the people’s agitation, governments had been forced to back down to a certain extent from their pro-corporate and anti-people policies. He criticized the Kejriwal government’s proposal to reserve 90% seats in Delhi University as being a conspiracy to break student unity. He called upon the youth to put pressure on the Nitish government to fulfil his promise to guarantee 24 hour electricity supply and to give 100 units free to the poor, to give dignified employment and to ensure unemployment allowance. He stressed that fair wages should be paid to railway hawkers, vendors, midday meal workers and Asha-Anganwadi workers.

The following demands were made at the Akrosh Sabha:

1. Release State Joint Secretary Manoj Manzil immediately.

2. Withdraw false case against AISA State President Rinki.

3. Regularize all contractual workers.

4. Withdraw Private University Act and implement equal education in schools.

5. Implement 30:1 student teacher ratio and appoint TET-STET passed candidates immediately.

6. Guarantee 24 hour electricity in every village household.

7. Provide “50 Unit Maaf, 100 Unit Half” electricity. With draw false bills.

8. Fill vacant teachers-workers posts without delay.

9. Stop police repression on student-youth protests. Release all jailed students without delay.

10. Withdraw all false cases against student-youth leaders.

11. Hold student union elections without delay in all Universities.

12. Establish Aligarh Muslim University branch without delay.

13. Stop interference with reservation rules in Bihar PSC.

14. Stop the business of loot in the name of Vocational Courses.

15. Provide ID cards, legal status, and security to railway vendors.

16. Announce minimum honorarium of Rs 1000 and Class IV employee status for midday meal workers.

17. Stop the state-sponsored promotion of liquor.

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